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Build your recovery strategy based on SLEs, not SLAs



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March 21, 2012 —  (Page 2 of 2)

You can maintain a healthy, positive relationship with your stakeholders by focusing on their service-level expectations rather than dusty 5-year-old SLAs. At the end of the day, this means your backup and recovery strategy, as well as your selected recovery technologies, should be based on SLEs, not SLAs. If you’re building your strategy based on a dated SLA, you might be asking for trouble.

A strategy based on an SLE, however, will push you to different tactics and more cutting-edge technologies that are better suited to meeting modern data-recovery challenges. With that in mind, here are three tips to ensure your recovery strategy and technologies align with your SLEs:

Have frequent, recurring conversations with business leadership to gain a better understanding of ever-changing business needs. This means regular conversations about the amount of downtime the business can realistically withstand for critical applications. This type of communication isn’t contractually defined or written down, but rather is a means of getting feedback on whether or not they like what you are doing. It’s asking, “How do you think it’s going?” and “Is it there when you need it?”

Use application-aware data protection technology. Use backup and recovery products that fully integrate with your mission-critical applications and databases (like Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server, Active Directory, SharePoint or Oracle) that the business can’t do without. Make sure your backup program is deeply integrated with your applications so you can recover and restore them directly. For example, if the CEO loses a critical e-mail in Exchange, the more granular you can get with your recovery, the quicker you can recover that single e-mail. For that type of granular recovery, you need application-aware recovery technologies.

Align your recovery strategy—and map recovery technologies—to the criticality of the data. Get away from a one-size-fits-all approach to data protection, and instead institute a tiered-recovery strategy by which you mix and match your technology implementations according to the criticality of the applications and data you’re protecting. Pair your most critical data to cutting-edge technology like replication and continuous data protection CDP, so you can get applications up and running very quickly after an outage. Use tape for static data that you need to retain for compliance and other reasons but don’t need to recover immediately. And consider cloud backup solutions, especially cloud gateways, that allow off-site backup with the speed of on-premise caching and recovery.

It goes without saying that SLAs are required in this world of hyper data growth. It’s SLEs, however, that capture what users really want from their critical applications and databases. If they are unhappy with the speed of recovery, this will reflect poorly on the provider.

If you are fully acquainted with the service-level expectation of business leadership, not only will you keep IT in good standing with the business, you will also be much better prepared to withstand the firestorm of expectations that will erupt when a critical application goes down.

Walter Angerer is senior vice president and general manager of data protection products for Quest Software.
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